Sunday, May 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Judge's ill-advised blow to Channelside renewal

A federal judge dealt a terrible blow this week to Tampa's effort to revitalize Channelside Bay Plaza. By rejecting the Tampa Port Authority's deal to buy the retail complex from an Irish bank, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi stopped the clock on a vital civic project, kept the fate of the Channel District in limbo and raised the costs and risks to local taxpayers of stabilizing a public asset that is key to downtown's economy and appeal. Port officials should work through the judge's pinched legal perspective in the case and join the bank in bringing a stronger offer to the table.

The port's governing board agreed in September to buy out the Irish Bank Resolution Corp., which owns the mortgage on the buildings and which foreclosed on the property in 2010. The $5.75 million deal would have given the port, which owns the land under Channelside, total control of the property, ending an awkward two-headed ownership scheme and marking a fresh start for the retail and entertainment center that has struggled for years.

But the judge rejected the sale Tuesday and ordered liquidators to reconsider offers, saying a competing bid for $7 million by an investors' group, Liberty Channelside LLC, was denied on insufficient grounds. The port exercised its veto power over the sale in May after negotiations turned hostile, citing concerns with Liberty's commitment to rehabilitate the property. In his ruling, the judge said the deal the port subsequently arranged with the bank to buy the property was substantially lower in value, and he ordered liquidators to "kick the tires" and "market this thing aggressively" to generate a deal the court could approve.

The judge's ruling ignores the public costs the port has absorbed in its years-old battle to find new and responsible long-term partners to run the retail center. In the past several years, two purchase agreements have collapsed, the center has lost more tenants and customers, and the complex has lost valuable time in this recovering economy by failing to remain competitive. The ruling ignores the intangible benefit of bringing Channelside under sole ownership and local control. It also ignores the value of ending this uncertain business climate by bringing in a new vision for Channelside and the millions of dollars a permanent operator could bring to reshape the venue. The judge has a responsibility to maximize this asset for creditors, but his decision completely missed the public interests at stake and the value to the bank in settling after all this time.

Port and bank officials should set aside any bruised egos and work to salvage the deal. The bank still has a financial stake in moving quickly to rid itself of Channelside, and the port — as a major landowner and player in the Channel District — still has an interest in ensuring the complex shapes downtown for the better. The motivations that brought the two parties toward a deal last September haven't changed. It may merely require renewing that commitment and laying out more money and clearer terms so the judge can better see the value to both sides of ending the stalemate and maximizing a community asset.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18